Southwest of Key West, the snorkeling off Dry Rocks is popular for its spur and groove coral formations. This Sanctuary Preservation Area is divided into two zones, Western Dry Rocks and Eastern Dry Rocks. While the Eastern Dry Rocks is closer to Key West and therefore more heavily trafficked, the Western Dry Rocks are more pristine and interesting for snorkeling dives.
The spur-and-groove Eastern Dry Rocks reef is about 0.75 miles long and has young elkhorn coral. The water depth ranges from 5 to 35 feet deep, and has generally light currents. The Western Dry Dock has good elkhorn and staghorn coral, and there are several channel cuts in the coral to follow like paths. The water depth ranges from 5 to 100 feet deep. Keep an eye out for the occasional shark.
While snorkeling Dry Rocks, you may encounter midnight parrotfish, french angelfish, queen angelfish, tarpon, nurse sharks, reef sharks, stingrays, sea turtles and non-stinging cone jellyfish.
The Dry Rocks are located about 5 miles southwest of Key West. The best boat ramp for accessing the Dry Rocks snorkeling is Key West Garrison Bight Marina. The Eastern Dry Rocks have 11 buoys surrounding the western half of the reef system. It is located 3 miles west of Sand Key.
To reach the snorkeling in Key West, fly into Key West International Airport (EYW), which is served by several airlines including United/Silver Airways, Delta, USAir and Southwest. Alternately, there is also the regular Key West Express ferry service (4 hours) that runs from Ft Myers.
When using a dive boat charter to reach the Dry Rocks dive site, make sure to reconfirm the reservation the afternoon prior AND the morning prior. Key West snorkeling tour operators are notorious for changing the dive destination just before pulling out of port. Actually, it's kind of comical getting them to commit to which dive site the boat is actually going until you are out of port. The reservation agents will usually treat you as very ignorant and just say they are going to the reef-off-shore, like that's an actual dive site! It is very difficult to pre-reserve a tour to a specific snorkeling dive site. Luckily, the tour companies are all located near each other in the historic Key West wharf and you can just walk-up 45 minutes prior to depature and ask where they are going. Also, keep in mind that most dive boats have a minimum passenger requirement in order to leave dock meaning they may cancel at the last minute, so when reverifying the afternoon prior ask how many reservations they have. And, they may cancel due to wind, so call an hour prior if in doubt.
Overall, Dry Rocks is the 32nd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.